A double dissolution of the 44th Parliament is now a live option, following today’s rejection by the Senate of a bill to abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.
The Clean Energy Finance Corporation (Abolition) Bill 2013 [No. 2] is the first double dissolution trigger for the Abbott government. The bill is one of a number related to the abolition of the carbon tax and the emissions trading scheme.
The Senate first rejected the bill on December 10, 2013. As required by Section 57 of the Constitution, three months passed and the bill was reintroduced in the House on March 20. It was passed again on March 27 and reintroduced to the Senate on the same day. The Senate rejected it on the Second Reading by 35 votes to 28 just after 9.30am today. The ALP, the Greens and Senator Nick Xenophon voted against the bill.
Other legislation is likely to be rejected over the next month, particularly the bill to introduce a Medicare co-payment. The current Senate is in its final week, with new senators due to take office on July 1. The Senate has been recalled early on July 7 to consider legislation currently stalled in the Senate.
Section 57 triggers remain live until May 11, 2016. The Constitution does not permit a double dissolution in the last six months of a parliamentary term. Section 28 of the Constitution stipulates that a parliamentary term begins on the first day the House of Representatives meets following an election. This was November 12 last year.
An early election remains almost completely out of the question in the present political climate. Unless the Senate rejects the legislation to abolish the carbon tax, an early election will remain a remote possibility.
The government indicated today that it will re-introduce the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (Abolition) Bill in July and see if the new Senate will pass it.